Benvenuto, Brunello 2016!

The expectations for Brunello di Montalcino 2016 are high. It is supposed to be even a tad better than the vintage of the century, 2015. The market is reacting accordingly.

Veronika Crecelius tasted the new vintage.

Only thanks to a comprehensive hygiene concept could the Brunello Anteprima tasting take place in-person / Credit: Veronika Crecelius
Only thanks to a comprehensive hygiene concept could the Brunello Anteprima tasting take place in-person / Credit: Veronika Crecelius

The Brunello di Montalcino Consortium has been rewarded for its courage and effort. The producers' association, led by President Fabrizio Bindocci (Il Poggione), was the first Consortium in Italy to dare to organise an in-person Anteprima despite Corona. 

In February 2020, Benvenuto Brunello was the last vintage tasting before the shutdowns and, in March 2021, it was the first liberating event despite the continued closures. Benvenuto Brunello "Off" was the name of the game this time and the professional wine crowd was spread over four March weekends instead of three days as usual. The number of participants per session was extremely limited, with 25 tasters instead of 100 seated at an appropriate distance in the monastery of Sant'Agostino, and with no one admitted without a current negative test. 

The sommeliers had to wear two masks and a plastic visor. Before entrance was permitted, test results were checked and body temperatures measured. One felt safe. Calculated over the whole month, the Consortium managed to introduce around 650 professionals to the vintage. "A strong signal of a new start for the whole of Italy went out from Montalcino. We had the courage to prove that it is possible to plan promotional events for the market again in absolute safety," Bindocci said. 

 

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The team of sommeliers is triple-protected, 2 masks plus plastic visor / Credit: Veronika Crecelius

Climate trend 2016

While 2015 is the child of a hot vintage, lush but balanced, 2016 was not exposed to extreme climatic conditions. Winter was colder, with heavy enough rains in January and February to restore the water reserves that 2015 had depleted. Spring was cool and rainy, as in classic vintages. July and August were hot and dry, but the maximum temperature was 32 degrees. August saw significant temperature drops at night. The rain in mid-September, however, stressed the producers a bit because it fell right at the beginning of the harvest. 

Some winegrowers, such as Alessandro Mori from the 100-point Il Maronetto winery, waited until the beginning of October, while producers in the southwest of the growing region made sure to harvest in time before the rain. In general, 2016 shows the combination of rich fruit, powerful tannins, freshness and finesse. The best also have a lot of tension, are fragrant and graceful. The structure gives hope for an enormous ageing potential, the Consortium speaks of at least 20-30 years. 

141 wineries had entered Brunello 2016, Riserva 2015, Rosso di Montalcino 2018/2019, Moscadello and Sant'Antimo, over 400 wines in total. Unfortunately, the wines of many renowned houses were missing, for example Le Potazzine, Il Marroneto, Fuligni or Conti Costanti. The annually-increasing number of separately vinified single vineyards is striking. Banfi, for example, launched the Cru Vigna Marrucheto for the first time with the 2016 vintage, which is superior to the famous Poggio alle Mure in terms of juice, acidity and finesse.

 

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The Benvenuto Brunello in former times, before the pandemic / Credit: Veronika Crecelius

Thriving market

The 2016 vintage and the 2015 Riserva are moving the market more than the "normal" 2015 and the 2014 Riserva: in the first quarter of 2021, 37 percent more state seals were issued for bottles ready for sale than in the previous year. This is remarkable because the first quarter of 2020 already produced an increase of 19 percent compared to 2019 due to the sensational reviews for the 2015, but also because less was produced of the 2014 vintage. 

If you look at the average of the last ten years, the growth in the first three months of 2021 is 23 percent. This is mainly thanks to March 2021, when sales increased by 92 percent compared to the average from 2011 to 2020. According to the Consortium, the strong demand is thanks to exports, especially to the US, where restaurants have already reopened.

Veronika Crecelius
 

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